Renowned Wiradjuri artist paints Interact Australia’s story

Interact Australia, part of the IntoWork Group, is proud to unveil a new artwork by renowned Wiradjuri artist and lifelong disability advocate, Uncle Paul Constable Calcott, which supports its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

The mural, titled ‘Respectful Interact’, symbolises Interact Australia’s connection and respect for First Nations people. It sybolises the experience of a person living with a disability and Interact’s place in providing support and enabling independent living.

Uncle Paul, an esteemed Aboriginal Elder artist and proud gay man, has long been recognised for his exceptional contribution to the Australian art scene. His unique style and ability to convey deep cultural connections through his work has earned him national acclaim with commissions for the Disability Royal Commission and Paralympics Australia.

After contracting Polio as a toddler which left him with permanent symptoms, Paul has actively been involved in the disability sector. In 2010, he established the Nuunaron Art Group, an art group for First Peoples of Australia living with a disability and has developed a number of resources to assist the NDIS community.

He uses his art to share stories of his life living with a disability in Australia, “Painting is my connection to my culture. It’s something that’s been passed down. We didn’t have a written language as our language was art and storytelling,” Uncle Paul said.

By collaborating with Interact Australia, Uncle Paul hopes his artwork inspires people to celebrate those with a disability and to learn more about First Nations culture, “People with disability never want to just be tolerated or accommodated. We need to be celebrated for what we can contribute,” he said.

“Interact’s philosophy of only walking with people so far and then giving them that independence, that’s what I like. I would like to see more organisations become more accessible, not because they feel an obligation, but because they feel they’re missing out on something and want every opportunity for people with disabilities to be part of their organisation. There’s still a lot of barriers and we’re slowly getting there but I just would like to see communities start to see people with disabilities as real contributors and really just appreciating and valuing it.”

Interact Australia Acting CEO Jamie Barden said it was a privilege to work alongside Uncle Paul to bring the mural to life, “Interact recognises the importance of supporting and showcasing the work of First Nations artists, ensuring their stories and cultural heritage are preserved and celebrated. The unveiling of Uncle Paul’s mural marks a significant milestone in Interact Australia’s journey towards reconciliation and serves as a reminder of the ongoing commitment to creating an inclusive society that respects and values Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures,” he said.

“We look forward to deepening our ties with First Nation stakeholders and communities, learning more about and understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and making a positive contribution to the national vision of reconciliation.”

About the painting

Paul Constable Calcott’s artwork, ‘Respectful Interact’, conveys the experience of a person living with a disability and Interact Australia’s commitment to providing support and enabling independent living. On the right side of the painting, the large orange circle embodies Interact and its staff (board, executive managers, support workers, etc.), and its connection to the broader community and nation. Rather than colonial borders, Paul opted to display saltwater country, desert country, rainforest country, and fresh water country to symbolise Interact’s ties with communities across Australia.

The painting also conveys the various levels of assistance Interact Australia offers to people living with disabilities. Throughout the journey, Interact’s support staff guide and assist them, allowing them to travel autonomously, with various support as necessary. In the top left corner, a person is portrayed as living independently, yet still connected to the community.

The artwork includes symbols that demonstrate Interact’s effort to build relationships with Indigenous Elder people and to listen to and allow them to teach Interact staff. Moreover, the Elder representation in the painting expresses Interact’s dedication to reconciliation.

About Interact Australia

Interact Australia is a values-based, not-for profit organization realizing change for peoples living with disability and disadvantage in the community since 1991. Interact Australia focuses on creating connections to achieve social inclusion, equality and purpose throughout Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory. Currently, Interact Australia currently employ 514 people including 24 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people across a variety of roles, including management, operations and support services.

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